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Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast Paperback – April 12, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This reviewer always assumed that bark was too variable to use as a primary characteristic for tree identification, but natural history/tree researcher Wojtech has proven him wrong . . . Recommended.” —Choice

“Periderm and lenticels are generally not topics to inspire poetry or jump-start conversations, but naturalist Michael Wojtech’s Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast may change that. Packed with cocktail-party ready facts and an easy-to-use identification guide for 67 Northeastern species, the surprisingly readable text is a must-have for both tree nerds and new-to-nature types.”—Adirondack Life

“This book will be a great addition to other tree books that we use in the field. No native tree shall go unidentified!”—New York Flora Association Blog

“Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast provides a unique look at some of the most majestic components of the northeastern flora and is a wonderful alternative to more traditional keys based on leaf or twig traits.”—Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society


“The section on how bark is formed and the discussion of possible advantages of different bark styles―thick bark protects from fire; photosynthesis can take place beneath thin bark―help prepare the reader for the serious business of identifying a tree just by looking carefully at its bark. But this is not as daunting a task as you might imagine: the detailed keys and descriptions and the excellent photographs make matching bark to tree an enjoyable and gratifying process.” (Virginia Barlow, co-editor, Northern Woodlands)

“Bark―the tissue and the book―is elegant. As part of a tree’s basic structure bark is always present, is critical to a tree’s function and survival, and provides a diagnostic feature unique to every species. This surprising and engaging volume enhances one’s vision for trees and the diverse natural history that they support. Delve into it to expand your awareness and comprehension of nature.” (David R. Foster, director, Harvard Forest, Harvard University)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: UPNE (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584658525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584658528
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As a naturalist, writer, photographer, and illustrator, Michael Wojtech strives to share the science and beauty of natural history in an accessible and compelling fashion. He began his ongoing study of tree physiology and ecology at Antioch University New England, where he earned his Master's Degree in Conservation Biology and edited the journal Whole Terrain.

Michael speaks about and leads workshops on trees throughout the Northeast. He lives with his family, tucked into the woods of western Massachusetts. More about his work can be found at www.knowyourtrees.com.

Future events (Fall 2011):
Saturday, Oct. 24 - 3:00-6:00 - Charlton, MA - New England Environmental Education Alliance 2011 Conference, Prindle Pond Conference Center.

Saturday, Oct. 29, 9:30-12:30 - Stockbridge, MA - Bark: Know Your Trees - Berkshire Botanical Garden.

Saturday, November 5, 1:00-3:30 - Lincoln, MA - Bark: Get to Know Your Trees - Mass Audubon Shop & Drumlin Farm Sanctuary.

Sunday, Nov. 6, 1:00-4:00 - Easthampton, MA - Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast - Mass Audubon Arcadia Sanctuary.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 12:00-4:00 - Norwich, VT - Bark Basics: Know Your Trees - co-sponsored by Montshire Museum of Science and New England Wild Flower Society.

Saturday, Dec. 3, 9:00-12:00 - Hancock, NH - Bark: Get to Know Your Trees - Harris Center.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was really excited to see this book, and I think it's great to see that someone has covered tree bark in this level of detail. It is ironic that most tree field guides focus on buds, twigs, flowers, and leaves; yet almost all tree recognition in the field is done on the basis of bark and shape, and nothing else. This book helps us understand why this is so. It is hard to find specific, concrete, easily describable, or "keyable" characteristics for bark. Bark is essentially a texture, and textures are hard to describe. Or perhaps, such descriptions are hard to assimilate. The author has done a great job--indeed, I don't think I've seen bark texture and pattern ever described in greater detail, or in more concrete terms, than in this book. Despite this, bark alone remains a difficult way to IDENTIFY a tree. Once you have identified a tree many times and have taken the time to become familiar with the bark, however, you will find bark to be the most useful feature for RECOGNIZING a tree. A similar pattern holds true for herbaceous plants, too. We learn them by such details as their leaf shape and arrangement, stem cross-section, flower structure and cluster arrangement; but once familiar, we recognize them foremost by their shape and leaf and stem texture. It's almost as if texture, whether of bark or leaves, is too complex for the conscious, logical mind to readily process, but just right for the subconscious process of pattern recognition or "search image."

The reason I only gave four stars is because, as much as I like the book's concept, I don't think it quite accomplished its goal. I can recognize all of the trees in the book at a glance by bark, but I don't know if I could do it with some of them, starting over as a novice, using the book.
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Format: Paperback
We recently took a 4 hour workshop with Michael at the Boston Arborteum. The workshop used his book and included 2 hours outside looking at trees. Michael took on an incredibly ambitious project of identifying trees via bark. His book is very practical and clearly written to be use as a field guide. The pictures are great and the 7 step guide is very useful. While tree identification can be difficult, even for experts, this book is an important guide to help and supplements a leaf guide well.
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I spend a lot of time in the woods around my home in Ohio. The forests on my parent's property in central Ohio (NW Coshocton County) are mostly native trees, with a few random pines and the occasional fruit tree. In the fall I spend several days sitting in the middle of the woods in a tree stand, holding as still as possible while waiting for a white-tail deer to wander into the range of my muzzle-loader rifle. While spending my time up in the trees I love to try to identify the timber that surrounds me, as well as the birds and wildlife. My parents and their parents have sold timber off the farm as if it were just another cash crop so I grew up looking for the long straight trunk of hardwoods that indicated value in the lumber mill. My Grandpa's favorite wood was the black walnut, and my dad's favorite is the now extinct* American chestnut. My mom favors the wild cherry with its red grain and light sap wood and my younger sister is the curly maple fan. I can spot a potential curly maple (looking for an older maple that edges the fields and has an uneven canopy), I can easily spot the wild cherry trees, beech and sycamores but without leaves I couldn't tell the sassafras from the walnut, nor the various 0aks and I can mix up tulip poplar with maple... My dad's extra years in the woods has allowed him to recognize a tree by the bark and the way the tree grows, it's branches reaching up to the sun or growing straight away from the trunk. Most of this is unconscious and he'll struggle to explain how he knows one tree from the other.

This book, while targeted for the New England states, seems to share most of the trees we have in our hardwood forests. We don't have most of the birch trees, and only a few native conifers but overall it's been very helpful.
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Finally, a book that pays attention to bark! Most guides talk about leaves, fruit, flowers, fruits, buds and twigs. On most trees, leaves aren't available in the winter. Flowers are only available for a few weeks in the spring. Fruit are available mostly in the fall. Buds are only available half the year or so. All five of them are often up too high to reach even when it is the right season.

I can often recognize a tree by its bark, but telling someone else how I knew was impossible - I just didn't have the vocabulary! And I couldn't figure out how to describe a bark I saw to remember it when I didn't have a guide with me. The use of the quarter for size basis is wonderful - I hate descriptions that are in centimeters or fractions of an inch!

The photos are amazing. Anyone who has tried to photograph something like bark will know how the light has to be just right. Too dim, no detail. Too bright, too many shadows and washed out color. I don't know how he did it!

It is definitely useful as a field guide - good descriptions, keys, but with interesting reading to boot. A great book that I am so pleased to have in my library.
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